Hearing Jesus’ call JOHN 11:1–45
By June Renie
Today, the last Sunday in Lent, we encounter Jesus in Bethany, where He performed His last and greatest sign, the resurrection of His friend, Lazarus.
We recall that Jesus was on His way to Jerusalem, fleeing the threat of persecution from the Pharisees because they believed that He was baptising more disciples than John, therefore, Jesus left Judea with His disciples for Galilee where He could continue His ministry.
We recall that He journeyed through Samaria where He converted the town of Sychar, revealing Himself as the Living Water (Jn 4:10) to a Samaritan woman. Also on this journey, He healed a man born blind and revealed Himself as the Light of the world (Jn 9:5).
Today’s sign, the final and greatest of all is the resurrection of Lazarus. Jesus raises Lazarus to life and reveals Himself “the Resurrection and the Life” (Jn 11: 25). It is this revelation that incites the plot to arrest Jesus and put Him to death as this miracle caused many Jews to believe in Him.
The narrative recounts that Lazarus lived in Bethany with his two sisters, Martha and Mary who were all Jesus’ friends. Yet when Jesus received the message of Lazarus’ sickness, sent by his sisters, He delayed for two days before visiting them, saying to His disciples “this sickness will end not in death but in God’s glory and through it the Son of God will be glorified.”
Eventually Jesus decides to go to Lazarus by which time He was already four days dead. Jewish custom held that the soul left the body after three days, so after four days one would consider Lazarus to be dead, yet Jesus told His disciples that Lazarus was resting and He was going to wake him, no doubt hinting that He was going to raise Lazarus from the dead.
We note the conversation between Jesus and Martha. “Lord if you had been here, my brother would not have died, but even now, whatever you ask God He will grant you.”
Martha shows great faith and Jesus assured her “your brother will rise again.” She replied, “I know he will rise again at the resurrection on the last day.” To this Jesus reveals Himself “I am the resurrection…he who believes in me will never die” (Jn 11:21–26). Martha hears only the promise of eternal life, to come, through the final resurrection.
We often focus on the resurrection as a distant promise, our guarantee of salvation, our eternal life with God and Jesus in Heaven, provided we are judged worthy. However, by declaring Himself the life, Jesus points us to the fact that in the present, we are raised to life, not only as a future existence, but to the abundant life, life to the fullest here and now, with and in Him.
What is significant about this healing is that Jesus prayed first. Lifting His eyes, no doubt to Heaven, He said: “Father, I thank you for hearing my prayer… you always hear me but I speak for the sake of those …around me, so that they may believe it was you who sent me.” Then Jesus cried in a loud voice… “Lazarus…come out”. Lazarus came out of the grave.
This miracle was wrought by hearing. Jesus thanks God for hearing Him (Jn 11: 41). Lazarus in turn heard Jesus’ calling his name. It is like the sheep that hears and recognises the voice of the shepherd calling out by name (Jn 10:3). Lazarus hears his name being called, he recognises the voice of his shepherd, and comes out of the grave, for only the shepherd can lead his sheep out.
Lazarus’ resurrection was intended to glorify God and His Son, through the witness of those who saw Lazarus come out of the grave alive. They believed and were converted.
This miracle incited the Pharisees to put Jesus to death, which in turn, would lead to His being glorified on the cross.
We are called to live both for a future resurrection at our journey’s end and life in Him today, through the Holy Spirit who leads us to worship God’s way, in Spirit and in Truth.
The gospel meditations for March were by June Renie, a retired law librarian and a graduate of the Catholic Bible Institute. She is an Extraordinary Minister of the Eucharist at St Anthony’s parish, Petit Valley.